In a move that has local activists and politicians sounding alarm bells, National Grid recently submitted a proposal for two new Liquefied Natural Gas vaporizers, which would be built at its facility in Greenpoint.
In late August, “the utility submitted a report to the Public Service Commission to ask for an independent review into the new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vaporizers, plus ‘cost recovery’ for the build,” BK Reader reports. Cost recovery means that customers would face fare hikes to pay for the project, which National Grid estimates will cost $65 million.
The Public Service Commission is a state regulatory agency responsible for ensuring access to safe and affordable utilities. They look into the financial logistics of the project, while the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) decides what the potential environmental impact of the project would be. National Grid also needs the DEC’s approval before they can begin construction on the project, which they claim is necessary to process more natural gas and meet consumer demand. Vaporizers heat previously stored liquified gas to make it a gas form when demand increases in the winter.
The DEC has a long history of delaying its final decision on the vaporizers. As recently as May of this year, the DEC delayed again, the seventh time they’ve done so.
Opponents point out that approval of the project would set the state back in meeting its climate goals. Local activists say the vaporizers will also complete the fracked gas pipeline that runs from Brownsville to East Williamsburg, officially known as the Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure, though commonly known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline. Although technically the vaporizers are a different project from the final phase of the MRI, activists say that they are linked, and the attempt to separate the infrastructure is intentional on National Grid’s part.
Sane Energy Project, a non-profit long fighting in opposition to the MRI, highlighted this disparity in a lawsuit they brought against National Grid last year. “We even said in our lawsuit, this should be looked at together because there are cumulative impacts. And National Grid was like ‘They are independent projects’ when the North Brooklyn Pipeline, if finished, would literally connect to the [Greenpoint] facility. It’s called segmentation and the fossil fuel industry does it all the time…” Lee Ziesche of Sane Energy Project told Greenpointers.
Yesterday, North Brooklyn city council members Lincoln Restler and Jennifer Gutiérrez introduced a resolution calling on the DEC to deny National Grid’s permit request and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to deny financing for the projects.
“North Brooklyn has been treated as a sacrificial zone by the fossil fuel industry for decades, and is a key example of environmental racism in our city,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez in a press release. “It is unconscionable to be building more infrastructure in these communities, and raise rates for consumers, for harmful projects that literally violate the environmental justice provisions of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act by increasing emissions in one of the most polluted communities in the country.”
“We cannot accept new vaporizers at the National Grid facility. Climate change is the greatest threat to New York City and this proposal moves us in the decidedly wrong direction,” echoed Council Member Lincoln Restler. “The evidence is clear: we must do everything we can to expedite the end of our reliance on fossil fuels. The state should not allow National Grid to continue investing in what will soon become a stranded asset.”
The Newtown Creek facility is located directly across from Cooper Park Houses, a public housing facility whose residents are staunch opponents of the project and was a co-plaintiff in the aforementioned lawsuit brought against National Grid.
As part of the review process, National Grid representatives must meet in person with community members. Both in-person public hearings will occur on September 21 — Cooper Park Houses Gymnasium at 1 p.m., and the Polish and Slavic Cultural Center at 6 p.m. If you can’t make those times, there will be a virtual hearing on September 20 at 1 p.m.
“I think it’s also really significant that these hearings are happening in person. Because of the pandemic, there’s never been a public hearing on the North Brooklyn Pipeline or any of these Greenpoint LNG projects in person. They’ve all been virtual,” said Ziesche. “This is really the first time that National Grid and the PSC are gonna be in the room with people that this is impacting. They’ve avoided us…and it’s a very powerful thing that they’re going to have to be face to face with the community now.”
Sane Energy Project will also host a rally on September 18 at 3 p.m.